“I have no interest in financial services!” Not my words, but those of a young woman at a recent careers convention that Brightstar attended. Literally dragged to the stand by her more enthusiastic parent, this student felt that there could be nothing more boring than working in the world of FS.
It did make me wonder. Is the image of FS old, dull and somewhat ‘crusty’; does it seem light years away from all things technical, digital and cutting edge?
Or is it the case that economic uncertainty and memories of recession, job losses and bad times turn young people and their advising parents away from FS and to something more seemingly ‘stable’ and less vulnerable.
It genuinely concerns me that a career in financial services is not perhaps the most obvious nor attractive choice for many young people, especially because we are regularly told that the financial advice industry is facing a supply and demand problem in terms of new recruits.
But why is this? Is it perhaps that graduates and those young people entering the workplace for the first-time do not regard financial services as a ‘profession’ as such. At worst, perhaps they don’t even see it as a half-decent career choice.
Regrettably, it may be the case that the reputation and image of financial advisers has perhaps been somewhat poor in the past and this has probably affected how people regard this career choice. There are still perceptions that there are ‘dodgy’ financial advisers around and I think that this image may take a long time to disappear.
These are just my thoughts and theories, but are they truths and reality: do young people really have little interest in building a career in the world of financial services?
Following our involvement in various local careers and community activities last year, Brightstar has continued its commitment to supporting schools and young people. We are enthusiastic about ‘backing’ youngsters and in encouraging new blood into the industry, but we are equally interested to learn if there is still a reluctance, even a downright disinterest, on the part of young people to enter the world of financial advice and if this is so, to try and address this issue.
At the afore mentioned careers convention I had enlisted the support of three young, ‘high flying’ individuals to ‘host’ our stand whom I felt would serve as fabulous role models and attract youngsters over for a conversation. Running a ‘Young People and Financial Services’ survey, alongside offering careers advice, we came away from the event with some very interesting data.
Encouragingly, our analysis of the ‘foot fall’ revealed that 73% of our student visitors were female and 27% male. I was encouraged by this statistic as at the previous careers convention we attended, just 15% of our visiting students were female. Did this signify progress and shift in young people’s thinking I wondered?
I was equally delighted by the strong presence of female visitors as I am not only concerned about the lack of interest in joining the industry from young people, but also by the current reality that women are underrepresented (at mainly senior levels) and that the image of the industry is too male (as well as being too grey and too white).
However, in spite of initial ‘promise’, our survey also revealed that when first asked upon their arrival at our stand, all 27% of our male visitors said they had seriously considered a career in FS and yet 50% of our female visitors had not.
Whilst it may have been to simply placate us, having spoken to our hosts on the stand and found out more about their career journeys and FS as a whole, when we then asked the same visitors if they would now consider a career in FS, 78% said that they would: we were delighted. Interestingly though, the 22% whom said they still wouldn’t seriously consider a career in FS were female.
In the same survey we asked about who a career in FS is most suited to. Results revealed that 50% of those surveyed felt that FS is a career for both men and women, but 50% thought it was just one ‘for the boys. The same student who had passionately exclaimed, “I HAVE NO INTEREST IN FINANCIAL SERVICES”, was also of the strong opinion that it was mainly a male industry.
Most of the young people whom we chatted to believed that you needed to be “really clever” and “have a good idea on how businesses are run plus business studies qualifications.” Many commented that you needed to be super at maths and some also thought that “you would have to do maths at university.” If maths remains, stereotypically, a boys’ subject and is thought to be all important in making a successful career in FS, then this perhaps gives us some explanation as to why FS as a career choice lacks appeal to young women.
So, whilst the answer to our ‘supply and demand’ problem almost certainly lies in educational institutions and hooking in new blood, conversely, our current ‘problem’ also sits there too.
Careers advice around FS clearly needs to be better. It needs to be accurate, appealing and motivational. Educational institutions need to be encouraging young people (including girls) into FS and ensuring that it is a sector that is included on its agenda. Sounds obvious, right? However, I regret to inform you that at a careers convention visited last year, various exhibitors were clustered under huge ceiling-suspended signs depicting career categories e.g. accountancy, armed forces, hotel and catering etc We, however, were put on the end of a row as there wasn’t a sign for financial services (and we’re located just 20 miles from the city of London and its financial epicentre!)
Educational institutions and careers services perhaps also need to question whether the way that financial services careers are ‘pitched’ and ‘sold’ (if they actually are) is more appealing to boys. In attempt to attract applications from women as well as men, for example, organisations are now looking more closely about how job adverts are drawn up and the language that and style that is used, so perhaps companies going into schools and colleges and educational institutions themselves should also look at how these careers are presented and marketed, and that includes us as an ‘exhibiting’ company.
In conclusion, organisations need to join together with a shared mindset to attract young people and (particularly, more young women) into the sector. We cannot rely on people just ‘falling into’ these careers if we are going to continue to service need: a more proactive and targeted approach is required. To change the profile and image of this sector, we have to change our thinking and our tact. Educational institutions are key to this change, but seemingly require a drastic steer from our sector.